Skip to comments.United Methodist evangelicals, the traditionalists, are growing amid UMC denominational decline
Posted on 10/21/2020 8:41:11 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
At the United Methodist Church, moneys tight, factions are readying exits, and social justice takes priority in witness. However, the denominations traditionalists so named for their support for the accuracy and authority of the Bible, especially regarding LGBT marriage and clergy are growing in number and telling others how Jesus saves.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association, the largest of the groups forming out of the UMC, champions evangelical beliefs and values. WCA President Keith Boyette tells The Christian Post more than 3,000 churches have affiliated with the association, and the number is steadily climbing, though the next General Conference wont be held until August 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns.
Theres been no pause at all for us, Boyette says. Were working vigorously toward a new, theologically conservative, global Methodist church.
WCA will not be that church, he adds, as he heads the Transitional Leadership Council attempting to bring together scripturally sound Wesleyans from across the world. The association will act as a midwife in launching the resulting denomination, Boyette states.
Birth pangs are coming for others as well, with the Liberation Methodist Church proposed by a progressive faction meeting in Dallas, Texas. That wing would be interested in intersectionality and be trauma-informed on racial and sexual diversity issues, and champion people of color and LGBT individuals in leadership, per notes from working groups at the convention.
The churn in factions led the UMC to plan a 26% cut in its budget even before the General Conference hotels cancellation of reservations this spring forced a delay in the meeting. Giving has been down across the board both before and after the virus outbreak, with some conferences having to lay off personnel or reduce their hours.
Forestalling worse news has been the federal Paycheck Protection Program, in which nearly three-fourths of UMC conferences have participated. More than 750 United Methodist organizations have received PPP funds ranging from $150,000 to $5 million, according to an analysis by the denominations news service. American UMC members account for 99% of the budget for churchwide ministries, it also states.
In the United States, UMC membership has dropped, with Caucasians responsible for most of the loss and racial minorities showing a slight increase in numbers.
Traditionalists decrying a lack of respect for Scripture have lamented that United Methodist evangelism lately has consisted mainly of spreading the social gospel of good works rather than the spiritual freedom of The Great Commission. In more than 18 months, only a couple stories of well over a thousand on the daily UM News feed have reported people accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Social justice is important the transformation in us never ends but the first step is beginning a relationship with Christ, says the Rev. Thacker Haynes, senior pastor of the United Methodist churches in rural McLean and Heald, Texas. As chaplain for the Clarendon College rodeo team, hes annually led several to the Lord and baptism for more than a decade, with 14 at an event last year.
Some of these students havent moved on to a four-year college, and weve seen their lives change dramatically since they were baptized, he told CP.
Haynes describes his churches members as 97% conservative. He says they likely will become part of a new evangelical Wesleyan denomination or go independent of any affiliation.
Other congregations cant wait. Northside United Methodist Church in Jackson, Tennessee, voted overwhelmingly this year to leave the denomination and change its name to Northside Church. It will join the Free Methodist Church, a small Holiness body headquartered in Indianapolis.
As the UMC has become so divided and is heading toward a split, we simply decided that God is calling us to remove ourselves from the ongoing conflict and focus on Christs mission for us to share Gods love with all people and lead people to be followers of Jesus Christ, Senior Pastor Don Thrasher wrote in a news release. We are a people with a deep love for Scripture and the long-held biblical traditions of the church.
The Wesleyan Covenant Associations Boyette recommends that, if possible, evangelical UMC churches wait on departing until next years General Conference, which he believes will approve legislation allowing them to keep their property and receive a share of $25 million in reserves. He says congregations leaving early have been paying anywhere from six to seven figures in exit fees to the UMC, which rarely allows a speedy conclusion and sometimes wont allow them to keep their real estate or other assets.
Well have everything but the light switch turned on with the new denomination when that General Conference convenes, Boyette quips. Churches can save time and money by joining that biblically based body after the vote on the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, known widely in the UMC as The Protocol.
After the liberals won, they abandoned the church. Locally, I have heard some liberals leaving because they believe there are Trump supporters in the congregation and the church won’t condemn them.
My book club was reading the C.S. Lewis book “The Screwtape Letters”. One of the things that stood out was saying, “Making him think of himself as a Christian AND ...
It didn’t matter if it was vegetarianism or spiritualism or liberalism. The AND distracted from the Christian and eventually overtook it. Make them promote the social justice AHEAD of Christianity, though Christianity may be appropriated to spread the “AND” ideology.
I have been very impressed with the considered and prayerful way Boyette and the WCA have been going about the transition. I think there will be a tough row to hoe with their (actually, John Wesley’s) focus on requiring, as a condition of membership, that every person be actively involved in classes and bands (accountable discipleship), but personally I love the idea.
The decline of the Methodist Church has personally been sad to witness, as I have a number of Methodist relatives. Not following closely the happenings within the church, I offer no provable actual evidence for the cause of the decline. However, I remember vividly a conversation between me and my (Southern Baptist) pastor in 1967. He (pastor) was alarmed to learn that the Methodist Church had voted premarital sex was not sin, especially when it was accompanied by an engagement ring. Like the male rabbit who was not much impressed when a class of kindergartners had voted he was female, we likened how the author of the Bible (ie God) was likely not much impressed when a denomination voted that sex, with conditions, but outside marriage, was Biblically endorsed.
Move then to 1988. A female friend had attended a Baptist conference for singles at a Baptist retreat at Lake Yale, Florida. When she returned she talked to me about something she had experienced at the conference. She said that on the opening night of the conference they had been shown a video with a teacher discussing sexual purity and the single man or woman, and God’s plan for you. After the video she said they broke up into discussion groups of 6 to 8 all female, and groups of 6 to 8 all male. In her group there were 2 early 20’s Methodist women. My friend was stunned when the Methodist women asked, what that was all about. She said they had never heard such stuff, even though they were raised in the church, and were apparently devout Methodist. She said the Methodist women were disbelieving that sex except within marriage was wrong, because that was not what they had been taught.
The decline has been sad to witness as a member of a UM Church.
A Conservative Pastor was recently pushed out of my church AND the entire UMC. He got too far over his skis regarding leaving the UMC or going to a conservative wing when the split comes.
The new Pastor seems good, but he’s seen what can happen. At least he isn’t an obvious liberal.